Diagnosing the online information search behavior of commercial airline travelers: An empirical case study on Icelandair

Stine Østergaard & Lára Möller

Student thesis: Master thesis


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In this paper, the authors have attempted to investigate the process that takes place when consumers purchase an airline ticket online. The specific process was identified as being from the moment the consumer goes on the Internet, to the moment of purchase; in this paper referred to as the path to purchase. The paper attempted to create practical knowledge for the airline industry in general, but did so in cooperation with Icelandair. The data was collected through Icelandair’s channels, as it sought to provide the company with valuable knowledge. Data collected outside of Icelandair’s channels proved that the findings could be generalized over a larger population. The paper sought to answer the following research question: “What is the consumer’s path to purchase, when buying an airline ticket online?” The research question was supported by four main hypotheses, three of which were related to age and behavior. The paper took off in the theoretical realm of consumer behavior and its surrounding literature, including online consumer behavior, information search behavior, and travel search strategies, with the aim to contribute to the literature of travel information search in an online environment. The methodological choices consisted of a sequential mixed method research approach, consisting of a quantitative survey and a qualitative verbal protocol process. The population of this study was Icelandair’s consumers, consisting of a primary segment; Baby Boomers, and a secondary segment; Generation X and Generation Y. The findings showed a strong relationship between age and behavior. Hence, one single path to purchase could not be outlined across the consumer groups. Additionally, the findings revealed consumers’ lack of knowledge of the intermediaries’ role, when purchasing through the various online platforms. The study ultimately proposed a knowledge framework consisting of the five primary paths to purchase detected. These paths differed across the three different age groups, as they were impacted by the consumers’ different perceptions and knowledge of the end-provider, importance of different variables, and the travelers’ overall experiences of an online travel booking. These findings were considered as having great implications for the airline industry as a whole.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages172